Ellis Island Typography

October 28, 2012

Beyond the amazing first hand accounts of the immigrants who passed through Ellis Island as they entered America, the prints and posters from the era are a treasure trove of wonderful design and typography. Here’s a sampling (although the photos don’t do them justice).

railroad map type

Fantastic typography detail from a Southern Pacific rail map. Note how it was important to include “correct” in the title.

Minnesota Poster Type Detail

Detail of the typography from a rail poster advertising land.

Minnesota Land Poster

Poster advertising land in Minnesota. Note the wide variety of typefaces used — not uncommon for the time period. Serifs, sans-serifs, stylized display faces, heavily condensed faces and even extra wide faces at the bottom. Also note the odd kerning in the phrase, “The Great Land Grant”. It might just be the typeface itself as the “GR” letter combo looks weird.

land grant poster in french

Another land grant poster — this time in French. The design of the top half really struck me as innovative and unique. The typography also takes a different track than many of the others using a thin slab serif face liberally and more classic serifs throughout. Note the poor kerning between the “A” and “V” in the word “travers”. It also looks like the poster was run once and then either stamped or re-printed with the agent’s name and info — the type block on the right is misaligned.